Deer’s death prompts 760-name petition demanding enforcement of leash rules at Rattray Marsh
Photos by Daniel Calabretta/Courtesy of Karen Allin

Deer’s death prompts 760-name petition demanding enforcement of leash rules at Rattray Marsh

A June incident in which an off-leash dog allegedly killed a fawn in the Rattray Marsh Conservation Area prompted a petition brought to Mississauga City Council on Wednesday, asking for more signs pointing out that dogs must be kept leashed. The petition, signed by 760 residents, also asked that signs remind cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes through the marsh, rather than ride on the walking trails.

Karen Ras, Ward 2 councillor and chair of Credit Valley Conservation, which save Rattray Marsh from development in 1972, told The Pointer that council will examine the petition “to see what we’re already doing and what we can do better,” in terms of CVC’s presence, enforcement and signage.  

Petition organizer Karen Allin, who has lived in the area around Lakeshore Road and Clarkson Road for 15 years, said she visits the conservation area every day to enjoy the wildlife there, including deer. “The dogs being off-leash are a safety issue, and people biking through the marsh are a safety issue,” Allin told The Pointer. “After I saw that the fawn had been killed, and the mother doe, trying to defend her fawn … she also had a huge chunk out of her nose, that was for me what started the petition. And I said, something needs to be done.”



Jay Smith, manager of animal services for the City of Mississauga, said his department was notified of the deceased deer on June 14, but couldn’t confirm if the fawn was killed by an off-leash dog. “We weren’t able to validate it,” he said. “It’s an alleged attack, at this point, by a dog. We don’t have evidence to be able to comment, one way or the other, whether that was the case. But regardless of whether that actually happened or not, we share the concern of the danger that [dogs] could pose to wildlife, and not only at this park, but in most of the parks throughout Mississauga.” Smith said this incident involving the deer is a “fairly isolated” one. 

Rattray Marsh is described as an “environmental gem” and the last intact marsh between Burlington and Toronto. It’s home to a huge variety of birdlife, wildflowers and wetland animals, which can be spotted from the paths and boardwalks that allow visitors a closeup view. It’s also a popular place for residents of the surrounding neighbourhoods to walk with their dogs.

Councillor Ras said there are signs in place around Rattray Marsh addressing off-leash dogs. She also said CVC has given the City of Mississauga authorization to enforce the animal care and control bylaw on CVC property. Under the “leashing and tethering” section of the bylaw, it states that, “Every owner of a dog shall put a leash on the dog unless the dog is: a) on the lands of the owner; b) on the lands of a person who has consented to the dog being on the lands while it is not put on a leash; or c) in a Leash Free Zone as provided in the City of Mississauga Parks By-law.” Like Smith, Ras said she’s never heard of a case like the one Allin is alleging, of an off-leash dog killing a deer. But both said they’d heard complaints about off-leash dogs. 



Allin summed up the goal of the petition in one word: “Enforcement,” adding, “when dogs are off-leash, that someone’s there to enforce it, to fine it, so that it stops the dogs [from] being off-leash. And also [that] the cycling through the marsh stops, and people either avoid the marsh or walk their bikes through the marsh.” 

Smith said most of the suggestions Allin put forward in council are part of what animal services is already doing. “We’re doing regular patrols,” he said. “Three months (this year), we’ve had Rattray Marsh on the priority patrol list for animal services, which means they get a defined or more concentrated effort on our patrol. The challenge is limited resources, and maybe looking at new ways” to carry out enforcement, he said. 

Ras said it’s not the first time the issue of off-leash dogs in conservation areas has come up. She said she’s been working with both CVC staff and city staff on it. 

“We’ve been talking about it for years. I quite frequently go to other conservation areas and see people with off-leash dogs,” she said. “It’s a bigger problem, not just in Mississauga. I would say, from a CVC perspective, it happens all across the conservation authority. And when dogs are off-leash, they can have very negative interactions, and I think can be dangerous once with wildlife. So there’s a certain education that we have to do at both the CVC and the city to get people to put their dogs on leashes.”


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